A really sad day for West Indies cricket! Never in my wildest dreams would I think Ireland would defeat the West Indies, in any form of cricket, let alone white-ball cricket. Now, I know some pundits would say that last year, Ireland lost a close series to England by 2 games to 1 and England are ODI world champions. I know some pundits would also say they drew 1-1 with South Africa but a month before that, they lost to the Netherlands by 2-1. In addition, some would also say that West Indies were missing some key players that would have made a difference. Really?
With Evin Lewis batting at the top of the order, Shimron Hetmyer at number 3, and anyone else that would make a difference from turning a losing team into a winning unit? I honestly have my doubts about the way the West Indies performed and only Sobers, Lara and Richards would have made a difference. Perhaps stupidly, after the first game, I predicted the men from the Caribbean would improve and take the series comfortably by winning all the games. In the end, they looked like a bunch of amateurs while the Irish looked like players that are in demand all over the world playing in the limited versions of the game.
Now, I believe the players were giving their all and trying to win the games but to put it simply - the West Indies were just not good enough. The batting continues to be mediocre at best and just as the West Indies have stopped producing fast bowlers one after the other since the ’60s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, the line of quality batsmen have also fallen away badly over the last few years.
The time for talk has ended and it is time Cricket West Indies (CWI) starts to show some muscle and demands quality players from their regional boards who can transform them into West Indies players. It is not going to happen next week but the wheels should have already started to roll. For some bizarre reason, the thinking is that the region has good, exciting players that will suddenly come good and click, but it just doesn't work like that. It is the responsibility of the regional boards to prepare proper programmes and follow through on them. I can’t speak for other regional boards but I remember when Trinidad & Tobago was going through the most successful period of cricket in this country from 2005 to 2009, there were many development programmes in place. There was the star programme where one coach was assigned to every secondary school in Trinidad & Tobago. The Easter Bunny Cricket Coaching Programme for children aged 7 to 13; the Under-10 Primary Schools Programme; the Youth Development Programme for teenagers aged 13 to 15 years. There were 8 high-performance centres for selected Under-17 cricketers in Trinidad in seven zones and one in Tobago. Sixteen boys were attached to each centre. There were live-in camps that were conducted over 9 weekends. There were development tours for national primary schools boys and girls. Other tours included Under-13 right up to Under-17, even an Under-23 tour to South Africa. As you can see, I am going back 12 to 14 years and unfortunately, we have not progressed with the proper development of our young cricketers and getting them ready for international cricket.
Quite frankly, I wish the Trinidad & Tobago Cricket Board (TTCB) would inform the cricket-loving public what development programmes they have in place from primary schools right up to under-19 level or do they leave it in the hands of the clubs to do the development of players? I am pointing fingers here at the T&TCB but really and truly, this has to be for all regional boards because there is no point if the T&TCB does something in isolation and the other regional boards are not doing similar types of development programmes.
It is the responsibility of CWI to meet and sit with all the regional boards and decide where West Indies cricket will go from here because you don’t need a rocket science degree to understand and accept that regional cricket is going nowhere fast. The technique of batsmen is no longer there. Batsmen do not move their feet and get behind the ball. No one seems able to negotiate the swinging or the turning ball. I can go on and on, but unless the powers that be sit down quickly and decide where West Indies cricket is going, they will continue to languish at the bottom of the rankings in all formats of the game.
What is Australia, India even New Zealand doing that the West Indies is not? Australia is developing players, especially fast bowlers, on a daily basis. Why isn’t the West Indies? The West Indies were once graced with the greatest fast bowlers the world has ever seen and they were the envy of every test playing country. The ICC changed rules to combat the fast bowlers because batsmen could not stand up to the barrage of short-pitch bowling and one by one, they were conquered. Batsmen of quality were being produced at the regional level, now it seems that batsmen of quality are coming from the subcontinent. These countries must be doing something right and just as how the other countries learned from the West Indies in the halcyon days, maybe it is time for the West Indies to learn how these countries are rolling off quality bowlers and batsmen.
Come on, CWI executive, it is time for action. Do what you have to do to save West Indies cricket. The fans in the region are crying. They are turning their backs on cricket. The players need help, the coaches need help, the territorial boards need help. It is time to pull all the resources together and do what is necessary to get West Indies cricket out of this hole that is widening. Step on toes if you have to; forget about the obvious politics that is killing West Indies cricket; forget who will give you a vote at the next AGM and who will not give you their vote because you went against them. At the end of the day, no matter what, you would have made an attempt to fix West Indies cricket and no one can fault you for that and when you do leave, you leave with your head held high that you did your best for West Indies cricket. Meanwhile, Captain, the ship is sinking.
Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of any organisation of which he is a stakeholder.